The Army’s Anniston Chemical Activity said in a statement Tuesday that it delivered letters to several employees, notifying 22 of them that their jobs would change. Another 13 were told that their jobs would be gone by April 7, 2012.
Since 1995, Anniston Chemical Activity workers were responsible for the safe storage of Anniston’s chemical weapons stockpile, and beginning in 2003, those workers were also tasked with the safe transportation of those weapons to the incinerator for destruction.
The Army and its contract partner, Westinghouse Anniston, got rid of the last of those stockpiled weapons in September. And that means the beginning of shutdown operations for both the incinerator site and for the Anniston Chemical Activity.
As a result, the first round of reduction-in-force notices were sent out Tuesday to 35 Anniston Chemical Activity workers, according to Lt. Col. Willie Flucker, the current commander of the organization.
Twenty-two workers were told they’d moved to different jobs within the mission to help shutdown the 20 or so Anniston Chemical Activity sites and to clean 155 earthen bunkers where chemical weapons were once stored.
The other 13 workers were given a four-month notice that their jobs would end soon.
But that’s not exactly set in stone, Flucker said.
The number of the Anniston Chemical Activity workers who must switch jobs or leave in April is subject to change, as people with the mission continue to find work elsewhere or retire in the intervening four months, Flucker said.
“During these four months, we’re very hopeful, I’d like to say we’re optimistic, that they’ll find other opportunities, maybe on Aniston Army Depot,” or elsewhere in the Defense Department, Abrams said.
Anniston Chemical Activity’s “new mission of cleaning and closing storage igloos and the turning in of equipment and facilities requires a smaller staff,” according to a release emailed to The Star this afternoon. At one time, the organization employed more than 170 people. It’s authorized to employ 102 during the closure process, the release said. One hundred and ten people work there now.
Flucker said a Department of Defense-approved process was implemented to determine which Anniston Chemical Activity workers would receive release notices and which would change jobs.
That process involved a review of the work histories of all 110 current employees and of the necessities of the shutdown mission. Flucker, other Anniston Chemical Activity personnel advisors and the organization union were part of the review procedures.
“It’s a proven process,” the commander said, and one that will be continuously implemented as the shutdown progresses and need for workers decreases.
“We’re going to be rolling in on ourselves,” Flucker said. “We’re going to need less and less.”
The commander said he expects the Anniston Chemical Activity shutdown to be completed in 18-24 months.
At the time, the facilities used by the organization will be returned to the Anniston Army Depot or to some other mission for reuse, Flucker said.
It will take the Army and Westinghouse workers tasked with dismantling the incinerator itself, if a way to reuse it is not found, about the same amount of time as the Anniston Chemical Activity shutdown. At the end of that time, all of the 900-or-so government and contract workers at the facility will see their jobs end.
The Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce in April received a $500,000 grant to help workers from the chemical weapons storage and disposal workforce find new jobs.
Star Metro Editor Ben Cunningham contributed to this report.
Contact Star Staff Writer Cameron Steele at 256-235-3562.